again (adv.)
God! I will pack, and take a train,
And get me to England once again!
Rupert Brooke (1887-1915), ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’
Avonbank viaduct. © Greg Fitchett, Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 2.0.
Welcome
english language and history .com
two-minute tales and exercises for work in grammar and composition
UK summer time

English Language and History .com is a collection of two-minute tales drawn from history, myth and fiction. Each tale is accompanied by word games testing grammar and expression, based on textbooks used in British schools from the 1920s to the 1960s.

August 16, 1920
The tennis tournament at the Antwerp Olympics opens, and Max Woosnam wins men’s doubles gold
Max Woosnam
two-part story
Music: Sir Hubert Parry
Max fully deserves his reputation as England’s greatest all-round sportsman.

THE oddest of Max Woosnam’s many sporting achievements must be defeating Charlie Chaplin at table tennis, wielding only a butter knife. His more conventional sporting career began with cricket at Winchester College, and a century against the MCC for Public Schools.

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The Outbreak of the Second World War
two-part story
Music: Richard Addinsell; Sir William Walton
The only truly global conflict in history began when German troops crossed into Poland in September 1939.

ON September 3rd, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany, two days after Berlin had defied an ultimatum and sent troops into Poland. The Soviet Union, in accord with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, quietly supported Germany.

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Six Posts
The Seikilos Epitaph
Music: Greek folk song
Lost for seventeen centuries, caught up in a war, and used as a pedestal for a plant pot, this is the world’s oldest surviving song.

‘WHAT is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.’

At about the same time that St James wrote this, a man named Seikilos, from a village near Ephesus, lost his wife.

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The Tale of Beggar’s Bridge
Music: Sir William Sterndale Bennett
The proof of Thomas Ferres’s rags-to-riches tale is quite literally written in stone, but popular lore adds some tantalising and romantic detail.

A GRACEFUL bridge over the Esk at Glaisdale bears the date 1619, and the initials T.F., for Thomas Ferres, Mayor of Hull. Thomas amassed a fortune plying the east coast as master of a trading-ship called the Francis, which he poured into housing, education and apprenticeships for the poor.

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The Ape and the Fox
Music: Muzio Clementi
A valuable lesson when dealing with practised liars.
Based on a fable by
Aesop of Samos

ONCE upon a time, a fox and an ape were travelling the same road, and passed through a cemetery.

The ape waved a leathery hand towards the rows of headstones. “All these” he said “mark the last resting place of slaves given their freedom by my ancestors”.

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‘I Remember’
Music: Muzio Clementi
A poem of nostalgia tinged with regret.
By Thomas Hood
(1799-1845)

I REMEMBER, I remember,
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day,
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

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5
The Keeper of the Gate
Music: Elias Parish Alvars
A widow cast her precious icon into the sea rather than see it dishonoured by government agents, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
Based on a
Byzantine Tradition

A WEALTHY widow from Nicaea near Constantinople kept an icon of Mary, a criminal offence at the time. Rather than see it harmed again - a soldier’s sword had already left a scar on its cheek - she set it afloat on the Aegean Sea.

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The Falkland Islands
Music: John Marsh
A proudly British group of islands far off in the South Atlantic.

IN 1690, a British expedition landed on a group of islands in the South Atlantic, and named the narrow strait that lies between the two largest of them after the Treasurer to the Navy, Lord Falkland.

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AZ Index

See a complete A-Z List of all the stories on this website.

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘Liberty and Prosperity’ (50 posts)
page 1
1 Not the World’s Policeman
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
Richard Cobden questioned both the wisdom and the motives of politicians who intervene on foreign soil.
2 The Economic Case for Time Off
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
Adam Smith encourages employers to restrict working hours to reasonable limits, for humanity and for profit.
3 The Economic Case for Generous Wages
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
Adam Smith asks employers to pay the most generous wages their finances will allow.
4 Germany’s Secret Weapon
By Sir Winston S. Churchill
(1874-1965)
As a last, desperate throw of the dice in the Great War, the Germans detonated an unusual kind of weapon in St Petersburg.
5 The Economic Case for Sovereignty
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
A nation with its own laws and a strong sense of shared cultural identity makes good economic sense.
6 ‘The Overland Mail’
By Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
A tribute to the postal workers of British India, and to the kind of empire they helped to build.
page 2
7 Big Spenders
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
Adam Smith warns that politicians are the last people who should lecture the public about how to run their affairs.
8 Why England’s ‘Revolution’ was Glorious
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Edmund Burke argues that England’s ‘revolution’ of 1688 worked because we changed the Government, not the Constitution.
9 Honourable Mr Fox
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
The colourful Foreign Secretary humbly accepted a lesson in manners from a local tradesman.
10 Tamed by Wisdom, Freed by Grace
By Elfric of Eynsham
(955-1010)
Abbot Elfric expounds a Palm Sunday text to explain how Christianity combines orderly behaviour with intelligent and genuine liberty.
11 Guardian of Peace
By John Stuart Mill
(1806-1873)
J. S. Mill argues that free trade has done more to put an end to war than any political union or military alliance.
12 The Grievances of the South
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
Victorian MP Richard Cobden believed British politicians supporting the slave-owning American South had been led a merry dance.
page 3
13 Dixie on Thames
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
Victorian MP Richard Cobden offered a startling analogy for the American Civil War.
14 The Reform Acts
Nineteenth-century Britain had busy industrial cities and a prosperous middle class, but no MPs to represent them.
15 The Firstborn Liberty
By John Milton
(1632-1704)
John Milton (of ‘Paradise Lost’ fame) urged Parliament not to fall into bad old habits of censorship, whatever their fears may be.
16 Inquire Within
By John Stuart Mill
(1806-1873)
Philosopher and social activist John Stuart Mill discusses the most liberating kind of education.
17 A Pledge to the People
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Edmund Burke pleaded with Parliament to emerge from behind closed doors and reconnect with the British public.
18 Life’s Infantry
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
However obscure a man may apparently be, his example to others inevitably shapes the future of his country.
page 4
19 ‘Recessional’
By Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
A heartfelt plea for humility at the height of Britain’s Empire.
20 Character Witness
A former convict gives his own account of his debt to Thomas Wright, the prisoner’s friend.
21 The Prisoner’s Friend
Thomas Wright never earned more than a foreman’s wage, but he helped hundreds of prisoners back into society.
22 The Great Baby
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Charles Dickens rails at the way Parliament and do-gooders treat the public like an irresponsible child.
23 The Servants of One Master
By John Locke
(1632-1704)
Some people are not more equal than others, nor are they entitled to more liberty.
24 The ‘Empire’ of Free Trade
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
Free trade brings to smaller nations all the advantages of empire without the disadvantages.
page 5
25 Man was not made for the Government
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Good government is not about enforcing uniform order, but about maximising liberty among a particular people.
26 A Little Common Sense
By William Pitt the Elder
(1708-1778)
William Pitt the Elder doubts the wisdom of letting experts run the country.
27 The Bond of Liberty
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Britain’s ‘empire’ owed its existence not to her armies or politicians but to her merchants and her unique brand of liberty.
28 The Jealousy of Trade
By David Hume
(1711-1776)
David Hume encourages politicians to put away their distrust of other countries, and allow free trade to flourish.
29 Out of Touch
By William Pitt the Elder
(1708-1778)
William Pitt the Elder berates Parliament for treating the public like know-nothings.
30 ‘Sussex’
By Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
A meditation on our instinctive love for the place in which we live.
page 6
31 Straightforward English
By
N.L. Clay
Beware those who encourage ordinary people to be content with clumsy, SMS-style English.
32 Violet van der Elst
An eccentric, self-made businesswoman, who ‘made three fortunes and spent five’ in the campaign against the death penalty.
33 The Unselfishess of Free Trade
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
Victorian MP Richard Cobden pleaded for Britain to set the world an example as a nation open for business.
34 Huskisson’s Legacy
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Charles Dickens explains how cutting tax and regulation on Britain’s global trade made everyone better off.
35 Bear and Forbear
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
A sympathetic understanding of the trials of other people is essential for getting along.
36 How Liberating the Slaves also Clothed the Poor
Based on an article by Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
The closure of slave plantations following the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833 had a curious side-effect.
page 7
37 Wilfrid Israel
Wilfrid Israel used his Berlin department store as cover for smuggling thousands of Jewish children to safety in Britain.
38 The Great Chessboard
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
If Britain is a chessboard, then politicians should remember that the ‘pieces’ are alive, and they generally play a better game.
39 Fit and Proper Persons
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
No one is more dangerous than the man who thinks that it is his destiny to direct things for the common good.
40 Leslie Howard
Howard gave his life to saving the ‘great gifts and strange inconsistencies’ of Britain’s unique democracy.
41 Britain’s Destiny
By Leslie Howard
(1893-1943)
In a Christmas broadcast in 1940, actor Leslie Howard explained why British sovereignty was worth fighting for.
42 The Small Compass
By Jeremy Bentham
(1748-1832)
The role of government in a nation’s prosperity is important but limited.
page 8
43 Kipling and ‘Agamemnon’
Both Rudyard Kipling and the Royal Navy saw Greek sovereignty as a universal symbol of freedom.
44 ‘If...’
By Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
A reflection on what builds real character
45 ‘Hail, Liberty!’
By Rudyard Kipling
(1865-1936)
Kipling borrowed from the Greek Independence movement to give thanks for the end of the Great War.
46 A Nation’s Wealth
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
It is not politicians and their policies that create wealth, but the hard work and ingenuity of ordinary people.
47 Peace By Free Trade
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
The blessing of trade free from political interference was one of most important insights in British, indeed world history.
48 There is no Liberty without Self-Control
By Edmund Burke
(1729-1797)
Anti-Christian governments don’t make us free, they just impose their own, illiberal morality.
page 9
49 ‘No dog exchanges bones with another’
By Adam Smith
(1723-1790)
How do we get the help of millions of people we don’t know? Only by trade.
50 ‘Better Habits, Not Greater Rights’
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
The extraordinary productivity and social mobility of the Victorian era is to the credit not of the governing class, but of the working man.

Word Play: Confusables

Compose your own sentences to show the difference between these words:

Will. Would.

New Stories
The only truly global conflict in history began when German troops crossed into Poland in September 1939.
By Richard Cobden
(1804-1865)
Richard Cobden questioned both the wisdom and the motives of politicians who intervene on foreign soil.
To the poor of England, the Worcestershire man gave affordable pots and pans, and to all the world he gave the industrial revolution.
After Louis XIV’s grandson Philip inherited the throne of Spain, the ‘Sun King’ began to entertain dreams of Europe-wide dominion.
New Puzzles
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Try writing complete sentences using these nouns as either the subject or the object of a verb.
Try writing complete sentences using these verbs in either the active or the passive voice.
Polyword ‘Deer’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with PIG and finish with STY.
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with WIND and finish with CASH.
Do you know ‘amusing play on words’ (3 letters), and ‘leaf of a pine tree’ (6 letters)?
Do you know ‘cup’ (6 letters), and ‘unit of resistance’ (3 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (359)
Fiction (77)

letters game

Make words from two or more of the tiles below. What is the highest-scoring word you can make?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: ‘Scrabble’ letters game Games with Words

numbers game

Make the total shown using two or more of the numbers underneath it. You can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Use any number once only.

More like this: Maths Gym Mental arithmetic